Archives for category: Honor Roll

In New Jersey, David M. Aderhold, the superintendent of schools of West Windsor-Plainsboro, called out Governor Christie’s “reforms” for the frauds they are. He says it is time to fight back. I add him to the honor roll for his independence and support for children and public education.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/16/09/22/op-ed-what-the-public-doesn-t-know-can-hurt-our-students-our-schools/

He writes:

“The unspoken message is that the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey State Board of Education believe they can change educational outcomes by implementing a system of standardized tests, data points, and accountability measures. They believe that if you create “valid” and “reliable” assessment instruments, that all students will magically succeed. Through a blind allegiance to standardized assessments, the NJDOE and NJSBOE have failed to provide the support, programs, and professional development that would work to ensure that all students succeed….

“As a community of parents and educators, we must come together to rebuff the politicization of public education and insist that these changes are met with opposition and disapproval. We cannot remain on the sidelines as upheaval from the politics of education clouds what is best for our children. We must remain vigilant and centered on the essence of our work, which is to ensure the highest-quality educational experience for all students.”

http://childrenaremorethantestscores.blogspot.com/2016/09/who-decides.html?m=1

Jesse Turner is known as “the walking man.” He walked from Connecticut to D.C. inn 2010 to protest the overuse of mandated testing and its negative effects on children. He did it again in 2015.

His blog is called “children are more than test scores.”

This is his latest. It is called “Who Decides?”

It begins like this. Please open the link and see where he goes with it.

I hear some educational activists want to be the deciders?
Who is authentic?
Who is a sell out?
Who is weak?
Who is pure?
Who is a real activist?

Who decides?
Who decides if you are an education activist?
Who decides if you can join the rallies against NCLB, RTTT, or ESSA?
Who decides if you can make your own sign for the cause?
Who decides if you can march?

Who decides?
I know something about activists.
I have been an activist since I was eight years old.
My first march was August 28, 1963.
I was the tag along company for my grandfather who decided he needed to be part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
At eight years old I had no idea I was an activist, but activist I became.
The only thing about the March on Washington I really knew was,
No one from the union hall would go with him.
No one from our church would go with him.
No one from his VFW would go with him.
I knew my grandmother was afraid to go.
My mother was afraid to go.
I knew they both loved Dr. King.
But, they read the newspapers,
They watched the news, and everywhere Black people marched back in 60’s they were met with hatred and brutality.
My mother loved justice, but she was afraid.
For weeks my grandfather asked friends and everyone he knew to go to DC,
He said I’ll drive,
I’ll pay for the gas,
I’ll buy lunch,
But no one would go.
My grandmother and mother prayed no one would go.
Why, because they loved him, and were afraid something would happen, and he would be hurt.
Finally he stopped asking people.
My grandmother hoped he would decide not to go.
He was going?
He fought in World War I, lived through the great depression, believed every American deserved a good job, and everyone had the right to vote.
My grandmother and mother prayed he would change his mind.
God did not answer their prayers.
They were afraid for their stubborn old man with a love for justice.
God did answer his marching prayers.
On the day before the march he washed his car, changed the oil, checked the tires, and filled up the gas tank. Laid out his best Sunday suit. Asked my grandmother if she could pack some sandwiches and his thermos. He said please in his best please voice.
There was an argument, my grandmother tried to get him to change his mind. He would not.
She called my mother crying. My mother went over. She took me with her.
They came to accept he was going to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
They were afraid, but proud of their stubborn old man.
They made sandwiches, brought an extra thermos one for the drive down, and one for the drive back. In 1963 he was 68. They calculated the drive time down would take 4 to 5 hours and another 4 to 5 hours on the way back, and figured the march would last at least 6-8 hours.
He would need to leave at 4:30 AM. They figured he would get there around 9:00, stay until 4 or 5, and drive home. They determined he needed coffee for ride down and back. None of this change the fact that they were afraid for him. People today have no idea how brave those 250,000 marchers were in 63.
My mother had brought a bag with pajamas and my only suit to my grandmother’s house. She had decided if the old man is going to Washington he needs company for the ride. She told my grandmother it’s a long ride, he’ll be lonely, and he could get tired. He needs someone to keep him awake.
Little Jess is the perfect person for that. He can’t stop talking. Plus if we send him with the boy he’ll be extra careful not to get into any trouble. If trouble starts he’ll take the boy and run.
So I began marching in 63 at the age of 8.
No one asked my grandfather are you for freedom?
No one asked are you for jobs?
No one asked my grandfather why is a White man marching with Black people?
Why did you bring a little boy?

Who decides?

All of us do what we can. I write. Jesse walks. I couldn’t do what he does. I say it is time for him to join the honor roll of this blog for his persistence, his goodness, his love for children, and his physical stamina.

“Inside Philanthropy” has done investigative reporting and discovered one funder that supports the traditional public schools that enroll 95% of American school children (not counting, I assume, the 10% or so in private and religious schools).

Who might this funder be? Not the behemoth Gates Foundation. Not the billionaires Broad, Walton, Fisher, Dell, Adelson, Bloomberg, or Arnold. Not Ford, Carnegie, or Rockefeller.

You can’t guess. Neither could I. It’s a funder in the Bay Area working with real public schools in San Francisco, giving millions (pocket change compared to billionaires like Gates, Broad, and Walton) and committing their employees to help in the schools.

They are putting their money where the kids are, not into destructive schemes to disrupt and destroy our democratic institution of public schools.

Open the link to learn who has exercised common sense, good judgment, and performs good deeds. I name this level-headed, wise company to the honor roll of this blog.

If you know of any other foundations or corporations that are helping public schools, instead of trying to control them or privatize them, please let me know.

In Chicago, hunger strikers sat in front of Dyett High School, demanding that Mayor Emanuel keep the school open.

They wanted an open enrollment neighborhood high school, and Dyett was the last one in the city.

Not only is the school open, the city spent $14 million to renovate it. It reopened as an arts-themed neighborhood high school.

Total victory for our friend Jitu Brown and his steadfast, courageous allies.

Jitu would be the first to say that he does not deserve credit or recognition. But he was there every day. He led. The hunger strikers won.

Jitu Brown hereby joins the honor roll of this blog. I am happy to say that he is a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

Angie Sullivan is a veteran teacher of children in the early grades in Clark County (Las Vegas), Nevada. She writes to a long list of legislators and journalists from time to time to let them know what is happening at the classroom level. Their discussions need to be informed by teacher knowledge, and Angie has plenty of it to share. She does this without fear of being fired. Angie Sullivan joins the honor roll of this blog for always putting the needs of her students first.

She writes:

My concerns are similar to the Trustees of Clark County School District, but they come from the practicality of the classroom.

Student Achievement:

I have concerns about student achievement as the CCSD Trustees currently implements mandates. Since testing has replaced instruction in many schools, there has been little or no achievement. There has also been little authentic achievement as teachers have been forced to teach to the test instead of teaching at each student’s instructional level to scaffold instruction. This has been particularly detrimental to limited English students and students in poverty. Forcing students with zero background, limited vocabulary, and no access to perform on a rigorous grade-level assessment – invalidates the assessment. The tests are simply too hard to show anything useful to teachers or students. That does not mean my students are not bright and capable; they are a protected class who has not yet had enough developmentally appropriate access
and participation validity is questionable. Simply: testing in English when your primary languages is not English is unfair. Trustees have created an environment where students, parents, and teachers have realized they cannot rely on these test to inform decisions – everyone failing all the time every time does what? Adequate support must be given prior to testing. Adequate instruction with background building and vocabulary building must occur. Protected groups cannot be repeatedly tested over and over and over then the data used as a weapon against children and teachers unless there has been an initial investment in learning time, supplies, and care. This is under the Trustees authority and it has not happened. Instead, labor and children are punished for things beyond our control. And unfortunately any “success” cannot be replicated in authentic situations because teaching to the test does not generalize to a different kind of test on a different day.

Equity and Civil Rights Issues:

We live in a district which has 100,000 students who are undocumented or live in families which are undocumented. We have few services for families to learn English, participate in Citizenship courses, negotiate the labyrinth of scams which take advantage of the unwary. Our students are in jeopardy of being removed from their families everyday. Family members disappear and are never seen again often. Frankly, it is a holocaust with individuals living in fear, under the radar, hiding. This is not conducive to learning and one third of our students live with this daily. My attempts at educating CCSD leadership on this issue has fallen on deaf ears – yet one-third of our students are affected by these issues. What would your life be like if your parents were taken in the night? Would your priority be graduation or something else? Students drop out to survive. I have asked over and over for some care by the Trustees to be taken.

I participated in sex education meetings. The Trustees allowed gay bashing and hate speech for 7 hours at a time. I watched Trustees brag about bringing their churches to the meetings to do this. The LGBTQ community is a protected class. Trustees openly allowed abuse of children who identity as queer. A community that is likely to consider suicide should not be exposed to long meetings where trusted authorities allow speeches about Bibles and hell. This is a human rights violation and unfortunate that Trustees participated in this.

Look at the data and you will see. It is people of color who CCSD fails. We do very very well serving the white outer ring of Las Vegas. CCSD knows how to teach students because we have some of the top schools in the nation. We are extremely successful in some areas of town – directly correlated to socio-economic status (which is the best predictor of educational success). CCSD fails to address the inner ring of the city which is soaked in social problems, poverty, and lack of care. Looking at census data for Las Vegas and you will see we have generations of adults who dropped out before the ninth grade – millions. 30 years of under-funding, crazy mandates, and hiring people who are NOT real teachers has built this. This is the extreme civil rights issue that has been built by the current Trustee leadership. The money has not gotten to the children who needed it most. This was in Trustee control and they failed.

The Department of Justice will become involved because of the severe racial inequity in the CCSD charters. These charters are successful at preventing collective bargaining, causing racial segregation, and siphoning money for questionable ventures. I have watched the Trustees admit that charters are failing and instead of closing them down – renewed their contracts. No regulation, no data, no transparency – another wasteful money pit.

It would be difficult for a new power structure to do worse than the current system which is ranked last in a state which is ranked last. The extreme inequity is difficult to measure currently since the Trustees have not been able to deliver how much money each school receives, though it has been asked repeatedly.

Employment Issues:

150 CCSD schools protested with picket signs to receive a teacher contract after the legislature sent CCSD $1 Billion which it refused to share with labor. Over 15,000 teachers in the streets each payday and marching finally lead to new language.

We fought to keep our non-profit healthcare which still struggles from being forced to spend down. Surely it is not teachers that Trustees are concerned about.

Perhaps it is support staff . . .

Who did not give support staff a raise in 8 years? Who forced support staff into a for-profit insurance that is prepared to gouge them again? Which bodies included out-sourcing in the support staff contracts? This is the current language not put there by legislators. Hint: CCSD and ESEA put outsourcing in the contract not the Nevada legislature. It is not support staff Trustees are concerned about.

Perhaps it is administration (principals) . . .

They haven’t settled a contract either.

Trustees are concerned about interviewing? I’m the one sitting in schools filled with long term subs, TFA, and ARLs. The door revolves in my community and each year the people coming through are less prepared than the year before. We filled our at-risk schools with folks who who had to have 60 college credits (no degree necessary) last year. Special Education students do not have a professional – sometimes for their whole school career? How about being concerned about stuffing warm bodies into vacancies. Those warm bodies are not ready to teach at-risk kids. I digress since that is a civil rights issue – is it not? Frankly, the white outer ring is not staffed with TFAs, ARLs and subs is it?

Equipment:

Have you ever been with 42 five year olds in a room when it is 104 degrees outside? They get sweaty and limp. Everyone gets sick and starts to throw-up. Have you ever done that as a routine for five years or more because the air conditioning routinely goes out because CCSD bought the air conditioner in Wisconsin to save money? Air conditioning and lack of it is not funny or a joke to be ignored. Trustees have failed.

Would I be sad if my principal had the right to call the AC guy who lives across the street to flip the switch so babies do not get heat-stroke? I would not be sad.

And again – I’m sure if I taught students on a different side of town we would not have to endure significant and life-threatening equipment failures. I digress- again a civil rights issues.

Student Funding:

I have taught at my current school for about five years. This week my at-risk Title I school finally received a reading series and a math series.

Yes. We have books.

I find it hard to believe that the Trustees who I have been watching spend money on lasers, trips, gadgets, and yee-haws for all sorts of schools not on my side of town – is now concerned about books, paper, and basic supplies? Because that has been my consistent concern since arriving here.

Frankly, no one has listened to teachers nor have they given us anything we really needed. But they have whipped us for not being successful with invalid data that tells no one anything.

In summary, I find Trustee concerns ironic.

They have had the power to do major change.

They could have shown an interest in civil or human rights long ago.

They could have been bold and really addressed the concerns they listed.

Instead they have mismanaged and abused their power.

Frankly it would be hard to do worse than they have done. So for my kids – I want to move forward.

The Patchogue-Medford school board on Long Island, New York, passed a wonderful resolution incorporating a new vision of what education should be. The superintendent of the district is Dr. Michael Hynes, who has frequently written about the need to change the direction of education away from test-and-punish and towards a positive future for children and our society. Dr. Hynes is on the honor roll of this blog for his leadership. Now, I gladly place the school board of the Patchogue-Medford School District on the honor roll.

WHEREAS, Learning standards must serve as a guide to what all children should develop toward and be based on developmental norms rather than systematic back-mapping of any given college and career readiness benchmark; and that such standards should be created by New York State classroom educators and content area specialists experienced in the grade level for which they are creating standards, with feedback from parents, community members, and where appropriate, students; and that such standards must specify at what level of difficulty a student is expected to demonstrate proficiency on state tests; and that such standards should be based on peer reviewed and evidence based research for each grade level, including lexile benchmarks; and that such standards should serve as a guide to what skills to what skills and concepts are taught at each grade level; and that such standards must be broad enough to allow local teachers, as professionals, to determine methodology, content, and instructional practices and assessments that will best suit the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that such standards must include fine and gross motor skills, including handwriting; and that such standards must broadly address play skills, a well researched and critical aspect of learning for students, to ensure that schools allocate instructional time for self-selected and guided play, particularly in the early grades; and that such standards in all grades must address cultural competencies;

AND
WHEREAS, School districts must be given adequate funding to create or purchase culturally relevant curriculum that meets the needs of the communities and students they serve; and that all schools must have dedicated funding for curriculum-based field trips and project-based, experiential learning; and that music, art, physical education, and technology should be integrated into the curriculum for all students in grades K-12; and that all schools must offer at least one consistent foreign language in grades K-12; and that any state-wide digital learning platforms must be evidence based, piloted, and studied for both efficacy and safety before being implemented; and that all high schools must offer advanced mathematics and science courses as well as advanced electives in all disciplines; and that all schools’ curricula should offer significant opportunities for students to exercise choice and direct aspects of their own learning;

AND
WHEREAS, Any federally mandated statewide assessments must be created by New York State classroom educators, including test question construction and reading passage selection; and that in a system that includes local assessment, classroom educators must have the primary role in constructing or selecting the assessments; and that tests must be criterion referenced rather than norm referenced and results must be given back within 4 weeks of administration; and that College and Career readiness benchmarks aligned with test proficiency must be aligned with strong indicators of post-high school success that have been vetted for racial, cultural, and socioeconomic bias; and that any federally mandated statewide assessments must be no longer than one day per subject with time limits established by a committee of classroom educators experienced in the grade level for which the assessment has been developed; and that time limits must be based on grade level expectations for time on task; and that the misuse of assessment data must stop; and that statewide exams must be decoupled from any high stakes including but not limited to teacher and principal evaluations, grounds for school takeover or closure, use as admittance criteria to selective schools, promotion, programs, and retention; and that on any statewide test, all test content, reading passages, and questions must align to the grade level benchmarks and lexile levels for the grade in which it is being administered; and that test scores and high stakes exit exams must not be the only pathway to graduation; and that students must have the opportunity to demonstrate proficiency in other ways such as portfolios and interviews; and that Regents exams must be scheduled in such a way so as to ensure that no student must take more than one Regent exam per day; and that assessments must be subject to full transparency, including the annual release of comprehensive technical reports that provide transparency on specific items; and that all parents and guardians must be notified of their right to refuse standardized tests for their child(ren), with notification must be provided in the parent or guardian’s native language;

AND
WHEREAS, New York State must fully and equitably fund our public schools; and that reasonable class size caps (for example, 18 students in K-3, 23-25 in other grades) must be used in aid and funding formulas as the basis for school aid determination; and that all schools must have at least one full time nurse, social worker, and security guard/safety officer, with all security guard/safety officers receiving crisis intervention and cultural competency training; and that all schools must have a well-resourced library and a full time librarian; and that all schools must have adequate counseling support provided by a psychologist, as determined by the overall number of students, the number of students with special needs, and the level of poverty a school is experiencing; and that all schools must have up to date technological infrastructure and resources, where state aid and funds for these resources should not be contingent upon schools increasing their capacity to administer computer-based assessments; and that in conjunction with parents, educators, school board members, and community members, the Board of Regents should develop a framework for what every public school in NYS must have in order to ensure equity and student success, where this framework should help drive the State’s accountability system as well as its funding; and that in Pre-K and in grades K-6, all students must have at least 60 minutes of recess per day in addition to the federally mandated 120 minutes of physical education per week; and that all students must be guaranteed at least 30 minutes for lunch, and this time may not be used for instructional purposes; and that all teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals must receive training in cultural competency, crisis intervention, and restorative justice practices; and that mandatory common planning time should be provided for general education, special education and ENL teachers, and intervention specialists who share students; and that New York State must prioritize the recruitment and retention of teachers from diverse backgrounds that reflect the students they serve, are trained in a fully accredited education program, and have completed a full course of student teaching with a trained mentor; and that all school districts must offer a strong teacher mentoring program to help new teachers navigate their first few years of service; and that schools must provide access to medical and dental services as well as high quality nutrition for ALL students who need them; and that all families must have access to fully funded, high quality Pre-Kindergarten;

AND
WHEREAS, The role of the Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be restored and allowed to drive instruction for the individual student and should be guided by the needs, interests & development of each student; and that the needs of the student must inform IEP goals rather than alignment to learning standards that are currently in flux; and that all special education teachers must receive training in evidence-based methodologies for teaching math and reading to struggling learners; and that all co-taught models must have a full time special education teacher; and that students with disabilities must have access to pathways that lead to a diploma and provide access to vocational training that is aligned with student interest and strengths; and that special education teachers must have time set aside on a weekly or daily basis to engage in differentiated curriculum work, intervention planning, communication with parents, and fulfillment of IEP and special education mandates;

AND
WHEREAS, The following five principles should be incorporated in any law or policy regarding the protection of personal student data in grades preK-12, and after students reach age 18, all these rights, including those related to notification and consent, should devolve to them:

Transparency: Parents must be notified by their children’s school or district in advance of any disclosure of personal student information to any persons, companies or organizations outside of the school or district. Once notified, parents to must be able to opt out of the disclosure of their child’s personal data. All disclosures to third parties should also require publicly available contracts and privacy policies that specify what types of data are to be disclosed for what purposes, and provide a date certain when the data will be destroyed.

No commercial uses: Selling of personal student data and/or use for marketing purposes should be banned. No advertising should be allowed on instructional software or websites assigned to students by their schools, since ads are a distraction from learning and serve no legitimate educational purpose.

Security protections: At minimum, there must be encryption of personal data at motion and at rest, required training for all individuals with access to personal student data, audit logs, and security audits by an independent auditor. Passwords should be protected in the same manner as all other personal student information. There must be notification to parents of all breaches, and indemnification of the same. No “anonymized” or “de-identified” student information should be disclosed without verifiable safeguards to ensure data cannot be easily re-identified.

Parental/ student rights: No re-disclosures by vendors or any other third parties to additional individuals, sub-contractors, or organizations should be allowed without parental notification and consent (or students, if they are 18 or older). Parents must be allowed to see any data collected directly from their child by a school or a vendor given access through the school, delete the data if it is in error or is nonessential to the child’s transcript, and opt out of further collection, unless that data is part of their child’s educational records at school. Any data-mining for purpose of creating student profiles, even for educational purposes, must be done with full parental knowledge. Parental consent must be required for disclosure of personal data, especially for highly sensitive information such as their child’s disabilities, health and disciplinary information.

Enforcement: The law should specify fines if the school, district or third party violates the law, their contracts and/or privacy policies; with parents able to sue on behalf of their children’s rights as well.

THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Education of the Patchogue-Medford School District, in agreement with the New York State Allies for Public Education, calls upon the Governor of New York State, the New York State Legislature, the New York State Commissioner of Education, and the New York State Board of Regents, to consider this outline as a new framework for public education in New York State, a framework that serves all students; an equitable public education system in which ALL students can succeed; a vision of public education that prioritizes child-centered and developmentally appropriate learning standards and assessments, research and evidence based practices and policies, equitable resources and opportunities, and an accountability system that supports rather than punishes; what all schools must have in order to foster creative, critically thinking, confident, well-rounded, independent, self-motivated, culturally competent, and well-prepared students who can work cooperatively and excel post-high school, whether they choose to attend college or pursue a vocation. Further, we call on all aspects of public education to be rooted in ethical practices and democratic decision making.

Jonathan Pelto warns residents of Connecticut that their children will be forced to take the “new” SAT despite serious charges that the test is ill-designed and invalid.

The spark that set off this latest controversy about the SAT is a devastating critique by Manuel Alfaro, who until recently was Executive Director for Assessment at the College Board, which is responsible for the SAT. The SAT was redesigned at the direction of David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core standards. Alfaro became angered by what he saw and he became a whistle blower. Just last week, the FBI raided his home in search of evidence that he might have been the person who leaked 400 SAT questions.

Alfaro has been writing on Linked In, and he posted these statements on August 28.

The first is an Open Letter to David Coleman, letting him know that Alfaro is defiant and will see him in court. He accuses Coleman of perpetrating a “global fraud.”

Alfaro wrote to Coleman and said (in part):

You have done an excellent job discrediting me so far. You have stopped news organizations from investigating my statements and allegations of the global fraud you have committed against millions of students and their families, College Board members, state governments, and the federal government. You have convinced the heads of the Department of Education using the SAT for accountability that—to use the words of your Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel—I’m “a disgruntled former employee who has expressed anger at the college Board in a very public way. Though his employment ended over a year ago, he has not “moved on.”” However, even with all your resources, I feel that you are still at a disadvantage. So, I’m going to show you one of my cards: in order to properly defend myself against any charges you level against me, criminal or otherwise, a court will have to grant my legal team access to College Board records.

I’ve tried to get help from parents, Senators, House Representatives, the White House, and the heads of the Department of Education of the states using the SAT for accountability without success. Thanks to you and the FBI, I will soon have a path to the College Board records I so desperately need to prove the global fraud you have committed.

The second denounces heads of state education departments for using the new SAT without telling the public that it is invalid.

It begins like this:


Residents of CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH, the heads of the Department of Education of your states have failed to protect the best interests of your students and your families, opting instead to protect their own interests and the interests of the College Board.

As these officials are elected (or appointed by an elected official), you can demand their immediate resignation or you can vote to replace them immediately to ensure that the department of Education in your state is headed by an individual willing to put the interests of your students and your family first.

In the paragraphs that follow, I will describe how the current heads of the Department of Education have failed you and why they lack the judgment (and common sense) to protect the best interests of your children.

On May 7, 2016, I wrote a letter to the heads of the Department of Education in CO, CT, DE, IL, ME, MI, and NH to let them know that the College Board has committed global fraud against their states and the federal government. In that letter, I offered to meet with their legal teams to expose the fraud. Instead of meeting with me (or asking me for additional information), they approached the College Board about my statements and allegations. According to a Reuter’s story, published on Friday August 26, 2016, here is what some of the states had to say about my statements and allegations:

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education, Bill DiSessa, said the state “checked with the College Board” and decided not to look into Alfaro’s claims. Jeremy Meyer of the Colorado Department of Education said the state discussed Alfaro’s email with the College Board and was “satisfied with the response we received.”

Kelly Donnelly, spokesperson for the Connecticut State Department of Education, said the state considered Alfaro’s email to be “replete with hyperbole, but scant on actual facts. We did not take further action.” Donnelly said the state hadn’t reviewed Alfaro’s detailed posts on LinkedIn.

Although I have not seen any of the explanations the College Board may have provided, I can assure you that none included the following critical fact: The College Board, ETS, and the Content Advisory Committee did not have time to review all the items prior to pretesting, as the College Board has repeatedly claimed they do.

It is very hard to be a whistle blower. It is difficult to walk away from a lucrative job. Manuel Alfaro did it. I name him to the blog’s honor roll for his courage and integrity.

Three years ago, I wrote about a heroic educator in upstate New York who wrote bluntly about the current obsession with testing, ranking all students based on their test scores. Her name is Teresa Thayer Snyder. I called her a hero educator. She was at that time the superintendent of Voorheesville, New York, a small and high-performing district. She spoke out against the rigging of test scores on the new Common Core tests, which caused scores across the state to collapse. Because of her courage and integrity, I named her to the blog’s honor roll.

Now Superintendent Snyder is leading another district, Green Island Union Free District, and she has spoken out again about the stupidity of annual standardized testing, which tells us nothing that we don’t already know.

She writes:

NY State Tests and The Three Bears

I am certain every reader remembers the story of Goldilocks breaking and entering into the cottage of The Three Bears. After wreaking havoc on their household, seeking a chair, a bed, and a bowl of porridge that was “just right” she dozed off in baby bear’s bed until she was awakened by the three bears’ return, at which time she ran off into the forest and was never seen by the bears again.

Such it is with New York State testing for children in grades 3 through 8. In the desperate attempt to find a test that is “just right” the State (and other States) has experimented for the past several years. Sadly, in the pursuit of “just right,” thousands of children have been subjected to assessments that were anything but. The results are in again, and while the powers that be are claiming gains in proficiency, analysts are suggesting that the gains are the result of lowering the bar that signifies achievement. Whatever—the point that should not be missed is that the raising or the lowering of the bar is entirely unrelated to the experience of children in the tested grades.

The test results again show that children in wealthy schools are more proficient than children in poverty; that children in regular education are more proficient than children who are differently abled; that children whose first language is the same as the test writers are more proficient than children for whom that language is a new language. These outcomes are so stable over time that one wonders why we need an expensive and extensive testing program to reveal these results. Indeed, standardized tests have been telling this story since their inception over a century ago.

What standardized tests have also been telling us for all these years is that there is very little correlation, if any, between outcomes on these tests and success in life. Recently, I was with a group of young women, all 30-something young adults. In the course of the conversation, standardized testing came up (I swear it was not I who brought it up!!). A litany of anxiety poured forth. Person after person articulated how much they hated those days of testing they had experienced in their k-12 education. One after another made statements such as “they made me feel stupid;” “I was always so disappointed as I worked so hard.” I finally said, in a firm tone, cease and desist. Sitting with me was a doctor of pharmacy, a speech pathologist, a director of human resources, a lawyer, a social worker—all women who had achieved remarkably well despite the profiling that they felt they were subjected to while taking those assessments years before. Imagine, if these successful adults felt inadequate because of those tests, imagine how youngsters who truly struggled on such assessments felt. My own daughter, a PhD who is professionally published, barely passed the New York State writing assessment that used to be on the testing menu when she was in fifth grade. She did poorly because she doesn’t like to elaborate much when she writes. Curiously, in her current field, such succinctness is valued!

A test of any sort is only a minimalist measure of what it purports to measure. I recently had a conversation with a data analyst who had beautiful color coded item analyses of the sample of recently released NYS test questions. One of the trends that was alarming to him was that the scores on “higher level questions” reduced with each grade in school. He suggested that this indicated that children were not grappling with higher level items on the test and this was a deficiency. I asked him how he could be so certain that, as children matured, they were not using higher level thinking skills. Maybe they were—evaluating their likelihood of success or even the quality of the test items, and rejecting them. Maybe, as children valued the assessment less, they were actively resisting engagement—resistance requires higher level thinking.

The significant “opt out” movement in New York—and other States– is growing as parents also value these tests less and less. What is astonishing to me is that opting out of tests is a recent phenomenon—one which deserves the attention of the powers that be. Remember, students have been subjected to tests for a good many years, and over that time, there has never been the level of resistance that we now see. Instead of denigrating the resistance or seeking to “punish” the schools where participation is down because of parental decisions, maybe it is time to listen to that resistance. Why, in a state where Regents testing has been a gold standard for years, why is there such disaffiliation with this testing mechanism in grades 3-8? Perhaps it is because the resistance recognizes the lack of value in the assessment regimen. Perhaps the outcomes matter little in the life of a child and are not worth the testing experience that their parents deem unnecessary.

I am 66 years old. I have taken so many standardized tests over the course of my life that I cannot begin to count them. I can tell you this—what I remember about school is not the results I obtained on any test I ever took—it was each and every teacher. I remember books they introduced me to, and ways of thinking that challenged me. I remember struggling with penmanship (I still do) and I remember being urged to participate in daunting speech contests, and I remember being prodded to write and to re-write—But what I most remember is the teachers and I cannot repeat that enough.

So, as we approach the beginning of the next school year, and while the State in which we work continues to search for the “just right” assessments, I urge my colleagues in the field to never lose sight of the things that matter in the classroom. It is not the test that makes a difference in a child’s life—it is you. May all of the children who cross your classroom thresholds find themselves in the company of someone who believes in them, regardless of the chair, the bed, or the bowl of porridge. A year of promise awaits!

I am reposting this notice because the original post attributed the fabulous film “Education, Inc.” to the wrong film-makers.

Brian and Cindy Malone spent years creating the film “Education, Inc.” which documents the corporate assault on public education.

It just won an Emmy award. from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Heartland Region).

The Malones donated the Emmy to Douglas County Schools as a symbol of a great community coming together.

This is wonderful news!

The Malones join the honor roll of this blog for helping to tell the story of the creeping privatization of public education, and doing so with a dramatic film.

Please go to their website and arrange a showing in your community.

Rhode Island teacher Shelley McDonald resigned from her position before the school board of North Kingston fired her. She is a woman of conscience. I name her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up for principle.

Facing termination from the North Kingstown School Department because of her refusal to administer testing last fall, high school math teacher Shelley McDonald has decided to resign. Her decision, accepted by the school committee at its June 28 meeting, comes after a long fight with school administration on testing which she felt, if she consented to give the tests to students, had the potential to violate her privacy.

“I chose to resign because I just no longer had the energy, the support, nor the finances to fight what clearly looked to me like an unwinnable situation,” she said on Wednesday.

This past February, McDonald went before the school committee because of her refusal to administer PARCC tests to students in March and December 2015. She has been a long-time opponent of the school’s installation of wifi in classrooms, citing health concerns with electro-magnetic radiation created by the technology at numerous committee meetings over the past two years.

She had also claimed that the terms and conditions of the test’s publisher, Pearson, Inc., include the potential release of personal information, such as social security numbers, to unknown third-party groups, something to which she did not want to agree.

A memorandum of agreement was drawn up between the school department and the North Kingstown teacher’s union which stated that only very specific items of personal information, such as the teacher’s name and district email address, would be accessible by Pearson. The MOA added that teachers would be held ‘harmless’ in administering the test unless in cases of ‘gross negligence.’

Superintendent Philip Auger declined to comment specifically on McDonald’s resignation. He has been adamant throughout the ordeal that McDonald’s termination was decided because of her insubordination in administering the tests when no other teacher held such opposition, not her repeated claims that wifi was potentially harmful to students.